Plan Ahead

Have you ever seen a hydrophone? Neither had I until I visited the Scripps Research Institute to learn about ocean studies. That’s the thing I’m holding in the picture at the top of this post. The researcher who gave us our tour studies whale audiology. If you’re looking for something to do, he needs help analyzing data from hours and hours of audio. Or something like that.

We toured Scripps the first morning we were in San Diego for the NAAEE (North American Association for Environmental Education) annual conference in San Diego in October 2015. Frankly, I was impressed! I didn’t think I’d ever heard of the organization and the conference looked really good.

I realized that I’ve used their materials for a long time. Most recently, NAAEE’s Excellence in Environmental Education provided guideposts for developing

The focus of the conference was on diversity and inclusion in environmental education–subjects near and dear to my heart. So much to learn and think about. The workshop sessions were well attended, planful and informative. The NAAEE leadership is enthusiastic and positive. The last keynote, a panel of young leaders under 21 years old; their take on environmental stewardship was inspiring.

Shelly Johnson, Education Coordinator at Next Step Adventure, and I attended a variety of sessions. We were particularly interested in a monitoring project called CIMBY (Calumet Is My Back Yard) that the Field Museum in Chicago is doing with high schools in the Calumet region of south Chicago. Ideas percolated from the sessions and from visits with other educators from California, New Mexico and Michigan, to name a few.

Along with the beautiful campus at Scripps we visited the Birch Aquarium; I’ve always been a sucker for tide pools. We kayaked a fairly choppy Pacific Ocean off the La Jolla beach and caves. We got to visit the world class San Diego Zoo, and on our first afternoon we soaked in the California vibe in Balboa Park.

Balboa Park Conservatory

Balboa Park Conservatory

We came home looking forward to the 2016 conference. And guess what? It’s in Madison, Wisconsin, relatively close-to-home!! It would be a great thing to send a strong and long Iowa delegation there next October 18-22nd. What do you think? Sound like a good idea? Let’s get going!

Color Me Calm

Last week I sat in a meeting and listened to a group of adults talk about how much they hate the holidays. It made me a little angry. I believe we have choices about how we experience the world, and that staying in the moment allows us to enjoy life to the fullest.

I also understand that our culture puts a lot of pressure on people during the holiday season. We may be asked to spend time with family or friends we don’t really like that much. We may not have family to spend the holidays with.

We may feel the need to find just the right gift for someone we don’t know all that well, or someone who is hard to please. My siblings and I finally settled on giving our dad gifts of exotic food; we could never find a pair of slippers that fit his size 13 feet.

We may compare our contribution to the office potluck to those of others and feel less than a great cook. Or maybe there is no office potluck to contribute to. We’re surrounded by requests, from the bell ringers to the TV ads.

Well, I think it’s time to take a moment to calm down with a coloring book. According to this article, coloring generates quietness, creativity and stimulates our brains. I was an anti-coloring book mom, but I admit to having lovely memories of lying on my stomach on the floor coloring many a Disney princess as a kid.

I also loved paper dolls but they aren’t nearly as calming as coloring. All those little tabs. Yikes.

I looked at a few options for your coloring needs. From the blatantly zen Color Me Calm to the entertaining Bun B’s Rapper Coloring and Activity Book to the clearly cynical Unicorns Are Jerks. Lots of fun choices; some I wasn’t willing to highlight on this site! Ten Bizarre Coloring Books for Adults offers even more  choices for your gift list.

Laughter is always good for releasing stress, lightening up and brightening your day. But Carl Jung, a very wise psychologist recommended coloring for releasing stress. He had his patients create mandalas, circular designs originating in India.img_5178

Hope is a Verb

It’s hard to be hopeful when we’re bombarded with news 24/7. Sometimes it’s next to impossible to scare up the courage just to go out into a world where it’s ok for almost anyone to carry an automatic weapon.

Much less to speak up about what we believe, whether it’s a big issue–climate change or a small one. Well, after a fairly thorough search, I’m pretty sure there ARE no small problems. Maybe a few inconveniences.

But I read an article this afternoon in More Magazine that takes it down to the simplest of solutions. Go back to the things that comforted you in your childhood. Mira Bartok talks about rabbits, both literary and plush. She also writes of a photo of an absent friend on her fridge; I have a small gallery of mentors who have passed away on my dresser.

I can look into their eyes at the beginning of the day and find the courage to go out into the world to seek my fortune. I also have a necklace my friend Jill made me from beads she collected while she was in Peace Corps. When I was going through a particularly difficult time of my life I wore it to meetings where I felt vulnerable and needed the courage to tell my story.

That experience of reporting an incident of sexual harassment didn’t seem like it would change the world, but it’s exactly the kind of thing that can.

A young friend of mine, at great personal cost, brought charges against a doctor who harassed her. Her courageous action means he no longer can practice. She’s made it safer for women to trust the professionals we rely on.

Jane Goodall spoke at Drake University a few years ago. She sees a fairly dire future for the planet, her beloved chimpanzees and all of us. But she talked at length about hope and about the work she continues to do to turn the curve of climate change, “What else are you going to do? You can’t just give up!”

Engineer Your World

When I was growing up and even until I went on college visits with my nephew Wil, I had no idea how much engineering is a part of all aspects of life–travel, energy, safe water, medicine, almost everything.

Wil is a junior now at ISU’s College of Engineering. He’s having a great time (maybe a greater time than his parents would like him to have) and some interesting learning experiences. He will be going to California to talk about a project he’s been working on for Pella Windows as part of Team Tech through the Society of Women in Engineering (SWE).

Unfortunately, the number of women in engineering is still much lower than the number of men. Engineer Girl is trying to change that with this Web site where girls can explore careers and meet people who are doing the work. The site is sponsored by the National Academy of EngineeringEngineer Your Life is easy to navigate, has video profiles of female engineers and a lot of information on–

Let us know about YOUR engineering adventure!

Connect Service to Life

Processing the experience is a core component of an effective service learning experience. You can process in a group or have group members create journals or portfolios. The questions here can be used for any of those methods; choose the ones that will help your group members internalize their service learning experience. This first group of questions will help reflect on what happened?

  • Look back on today. What struck you most strongly?
  • What happened?
  • What images stand out in your mind? What sights, sounds and smells?
  • What experiences and conversations do you especially remember?
  • What is it about these images that make you remember them?
  • Who did you meet and work with during the day?
  • Who did you relate to most easily? Who did you find it hardest to talk to?
  • Why?
  • What did you learn about the people you met? How are they like you?
  • How are they different?
  • What needs did your service try to meet? Did it succeed? Why or why not?
  • What information or skills did you learn today?
  • How did you apply what you knew before to this project?

What does it mean?

  • What was happening in your heart? What did you feel? Were you upset?
  • Were you surprised? Confused? Content? What touched you most deeply?
  • Why?
  • What did you find frustrating? What did you find most hopeful?
  • What would it be like to trade places with the people you worked with?
  • What did you learn about yourself?
  • What do you like about what you learned? What would you like to change?
  • How did the experience change or challenge your convictions and beliefs?

Now what?

  • How were justice and injustice present in the situations you faced today?
  • Did you learn anything new about what causes suffering?
  • What did you learn about how you can make things better?
  • How are you part of the problem? How are you part of the solution?
  • What did you learn today that will help you in your future service work?
  • What needs to change in the world to make things better?
  • What needs to change in you?
  • What hopes and expectations do you have for those you served? For yourself?
  • How did the service experience affect how you would like to live?
  • How did it affect what type of job or career you might choose?

Adapted from An Asset Builder’s Guide to Service Learning, A Search Institute Publication, 2000, page 96

Fishbowl Discussion

A fishbowl discussion allows everyone in a large group to participate in a series of small group discussions. In a group larger than four or five it’s hard for everyone to have a chance to speak.

This method allows up to five people to discuss a topic for a set amount of time, with the rest of the group taking turns as the audience. It’s a non-threatening way to develop speaking and listening skills. It can help people get over the fear of speaking in front of a group because it’s more like a conversation than speaking before an audience.

Arrange four or five chairs in an inner circle. This is the fishbowl. Arrange the rest of the chairs in concentric circles around the fishbowl. Select enough participants or ask for volunteers to fill the fishbowl, while the rest of the group sit on the chairs outside the fishbowl.

Now introduce the topic for discussion and the participants in the fishbowl start discussing the topic. The audience outside the fishbowl listens.

You can choose between an open fishbowl and a closed fishbowl, two different methods to make sure everyone gets a chance to join in the conversation.

In an open fishbowl, leave one chair empty and explain that any member of the audience can, at any time, occupy the empty chair and join the fishbowl. When this happens, one member of the fishbowl must voluntarily leave the fishbowl so there is always one free chair.

The discussion continues with participants frequently entering and leaving the fishbowl. This method, if your audience members are interested and assertive, will allow most audience members to spend time in the fishbowl and participate in the discussion.

When time runs out, close the fishbowl and summarize the discussion.

In a closed fishbowl, all chairs are filled. The initial participants speak for a specified amount of time, maybe five minutes. When time runs out, they leave the fishbowl and a new group from the audience enters the fishbowl.

This continues until most audience members have spent some time in the fishbowl. Once the final group has concluded, close the fishbowl and summarize the discussion.

In a timed discussion, let the people in the fish bowl discuss the topic for a certain period of time – say, 15 minutes. Then stop the discussion and invite the people who aren’t in the inner circle to give feedback on what they heard in the fishbowl.

To use the fishbowl exchange, divide the group into two smaller groups; have each of these groups meet separately and come up with three or four open-ended questions for the other group. Have them write their questions down; reconvene and exchange questions.
Form two circles, one small group inside the other, both facing inward. Have the fishbowl (the inside group) read a question and discuss it. The outside circle cannot speak, only listen.

Go through all the questions, making sure everyone in the fishbowl gets to speak. Now switch circles and go through the process again.